Golden Skate

Russian Pair Edges Closer to the Top

Russia's latest international figure skating pairs champions are Tatiana Totmianina and Maxim Marinin.

Russia’s latest international pairs champions are Tatiana Totmianina and Maxim Marinin. The couple won their first major international competition last spring when they took the 2002 European title. “We were happy that we were able to uphold our team and show that Russian teams are still so strong,” Marinin stated. Although they have been skating together only five years, the pair already has an impressive record. Starting with a seventh place at the 1999 World Championships, they moved up one place each year at Worlds, jumping to second at the 2002 World Championships in Japan. They had two fifths and a second at Europeans before winning last season, plus three bronzes and a silver at Russian Nationals. They had yet to win a Grand Prix event.

The couple achieved both their main goals last season, hoping to medal at Worlds and make the top five at the Olympics, where they were fourth. “Our job is to skate well and skate clean. Then the results will come,” Tatiana stated. “For the future, we can’t see far ahead, but we want to skate after the Olympics,” Maxim added. “The longer the better, as long as we can do it. We don’t know what we will accomplish, but we hope to skate professionally. But even when man is thinking of it, God sometimes does otherwise.” And he did. The pair finished first at three Grand Prix events for this season: Skate America, Skate Canada and Trophee Lalique.

To ensure a future after skating, Maxim is studying at a sports institute so he can coach. Tatiana is enrolled at the School of Olympic Sports, which provides a general education with classes adapted to her practice schedule. Although she looks like a ballerina, Tatiana didn’t take ballet as a child, although her mother encouraged her to try it for a week. “I didn’t have time for both,” Tatiana stated.

Both skaters began at four. Tatiana started skating with her mother, a recreational skater, while Maxim began when his parents saw an advertisement for a school that was taking children for skating classes. “I didn’t have a professional coach, just a sports teacher, so I didn’t have the best training,” he said. “When I traveled to competitions, the other boys were doing triples and I was doing doubles. When I got the triples, I was still behind. Then I lost to Evgeni Plushenko in the Olympic Hope competition and I knew I had no chance. Since I was tall, a coach from St. Petersburg asked me to move there and do pairs. I skated with different girls starting in 1993, but they didn’t work out. Then I met Tatiana at the 1995 Russian Nationals.” Tatiana added, “I knew I had no chance in ladies. Maxim had no partner so we started together. It was difficult to adapt. It still is. But I was never afraid. The hardest part for me was the death spiral.”

The skaters currently train in Chicago with 1984 Olympic pairs champion Oleg Vasiliev, skating for about 24 hours a week. “The conditions for working are better there,” Marinin stated, noting that they had at least four hours on ice every day. “We don’t live in the USA. We just practice there,” Vasiliev added. “The practice itself isn’t any different from Russia.”

This year the skaters are using Morning Suite and Hall of the Mountain King by Edvard Grieg for their short and The Cotton Club by John Barry for their free skate. “I actually like to skate to classical music because it suits us,” Tatiana said. “We have long lines and it looks good.” Marinin added, “We chose the costumes and the music [for the long program] ourselves as we felt it made things more understandable for a North American audience.” Off ice, she listens to modern pop music including the Backstreet Boys, Hands Up and Russian pop artists. Maxim enjoys Western pop groups like Sting, Metallica and Pink Floyd.

The skaters have a lot to do with skating and schoolwork, including studying English. But Tatiana likes to read romance novels like “Gone with the Wind” to relax, while Maxim said he just walks around to unwind. They both enjoy their time in the United States, especially Tatiana, who spent several months in New York and Pennsylvania as an exchange student when she was ten and eleven. For holidays, they both enjoy traveling to someplace warm, near the sea. All they collect are the stuffed animals, all of which Tatiana keeps in her home, especially the rabbits, which are her favorites.

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